Uxbridge snatched a stoppage time winner to consign AFC Rushden & Diamonds to a fourth consecutive league defeat on Saturday afternoon. 

The first half was largely devoid of any clear-cut chances, with both sides struggling to build a tempo that would trouble the opposing defence. Elliott Sandy saw a half-volley well saved by visiting goalkeeper Paul McCarthy and also saw an instinctive overhead kick drop wide of the far post, while Uxbridge defender Dan Bailey slammed over when well positioned. 

Uxbridge were the ones to take the lead seven minutes into the second half as full-back Ben Peden won possession and advanced forward before firing a shot inside the far corner of Matt Finlay’s net. After Sandy had seen another effort held the Diamonds were able to find an equaliser, as debutant James Jepson headed through for Sandy to slot home confidently. McCarthy then made a terrific point-blank save to deny an own goal from defender Mark Dennison, and just as it appeared that the game would end in a draw away captain Wayne Carter nodded home a cross from winger Anthony O’Connor after Finlay had made an initial save.¬†

Manager Andy Peaks made four changes to the side that was narrowly defeated at Royston last weekend, with Connor Kennedy replacing Ollie Wilkinson at right-back, Andy Hall returning to the side and midfield pair James Jepson and Tom Manship being handed their full debuts. Brad Harris, Tom Lorraine, Dan Quigley and Wilkinson were named on a strong-looking substitutes bench. 

The game kicked off with the Diamonds aiming to get their promotion bid back on track and the visitors attempting to end a run that had only seen them win twice in their last 14 matches. The opening ten minutes saw both sides struggle to maintain possession and there were midfield skirmishes aplenty, most notably when Jepson and Wayne Carter briefly squared up after a challenge close to the halfway line. 

The first chance fell to Uxbridge in the 11th minute, with a free-kick into the Diamonds box inadvertently being headed across goal by Jack Ashton only for Carter’s own header to drop to safety. The hosts in response saw Elliot Sandy flick the ball onto strike-partner Jon Stevenson who in turn fed Hall, and his ball through to Sandy saw the Diamonds number 9 slightly overrun the ball before being tackled. He went closer moments later when a quick throw-in released him in the left side of the penalty box, and his half-volley required Paul McCarthy in the Uxbridge goal to turn it behind for a corner.¬†

Rushden were now beginning to cause problems for the visitors’ backline with a succession of set-pieces, and it was an inswinging corner by Claudio Hoban that Ashton almost reached only to be denied by good defending.¬†In the 30th minute a weak backpass to McCarthy forced him to rush his clearance and the ball ran straight to Hall‚Äôs feet, and despite the keeper being out of his goal, he was only able to meekly steer the ball to a covering defender and the danger was cleared. Another dead ball situation, this time a free-kick, saw Hoban‚Äôs delivery drop close to Liam Dolman in the six-yard box, though the ball was kicked to safety before the defender could get to it.

There was a moment of contention nine minutes before the end of the regulatory 45 minutes, as Uxbridge man Jon-Jo Bates fouled Hall with a high foot minutes after receiving a yellow card. Despite claims for a second booking, referee Edward Cook instead warned him and the midfielder was substituted soon afterwards. A minute afterwards Hall clipped a left-footed cross into Sandy, and he showed close chest control to set himself up for an overhead kick that flew just wide of the far post.

The visitors, sitting in 16th place prior to this fixture, didn’t create many telling opportunities in the opening period, though their build-up play was often neat and tidy in the midfield areas. Their best chance came in the 42nd minute when, after Dolman had blocked behind an effort from Matt Woods, the resultant corner led to a cross which found Carter, and his knock-down was hit over the bar by central defender Dan Bailey.

There was just time for the dangerous Sandy to be found by a Hoban pull-back on the edge of the area, though his powerful shot was blocked before it reached the goalkeeper. The referee sounded his whistle shortly afterwards to call time on a very evenly fought first half.

Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Uxbridge FC

 The second half began with thoughts highly focused on who would start the brighter of the two teams, and that turned out to be the visitors. In the 50th minute a flick-on by Carter found Anthony O’Connor in acres of space at the back post, but the ball wouldn’t come down to a comfortable height for him and Finlay was able to rush out and block the attempt. However, Uxbridge were to take the lead only a minute later. Ben Peden did well to win possession off Hoban on the halfway line and he broke forward into the Diamonds half. With time and space allowed to the full-back as he advanced on the home defence, he hit a shot from the edge of the area which arrowed past Finlay’s right hand and into the far corner of the goal.

Any belief that that goal would draw an immediate response from the home side were to be disappointed in the next ten minutes as the Diamonds’ play was still often played at a slow tempo and many passes were going astray. The introduction of Tom Lorraine, at the expense of Stevenson, seemed to invigorate the hosts in giving them a direct and pacy threat, and a succession of chances was created shortly after the alteration.

In the 65th minute the ball dropped for Sandy in a crowded penalty area following a deep free-kick, and he was able to poke the ball back for Manship whose shot was partially blocked making it easy for McCarthy to pick up the ball. One minute later Hall escaped down the right flank and floated a cross to the back post where two Uxbridge defenders both attempted to head the ball away. Consequently the loose possession dropped to the edge of the box where Sandy was arriving to meet it, but his shot into the ground was directed straight at the goalkeeper.

In their next attack though, Rushden were able to conjure up a leveller. Ashton played a misplaced ball forward but a miscontrol meant the ball bounced up for James Jepson. He nodded the ball forward for Elliot Sandy, and with no Uxbridge defender responding to the danger, he was able to compose himself and slot the ball under McCarthy’s body.

Jepson and Sandy were involved again in the 72nd minute as a long ball forward from the Diamonds defence sailed over Lorraine’s head but was perfect for Sandy to latch onto. Jepson made an incisive run off the striker, and after being found he hit a powerful left-footed shot that flew just wide of the near post. Lorraine then powered away down the right wing, and just before he reached the byline he fired the ball low across goal. Away defender Mark Dennison slid in to try and clear the danger, but the ball ricocheted towards goal which forced McCarthy into a sharp save.

Substitute Reece Grant had been introduced into the Uxbridge attack shortly before this chance, and he posed a threat to the Rushden defence due to his swift dribbling ability. One moment saw him show quick feet as he drove into the box, and though he was stopped, the ball sat up for Lewis Cole to drift a volley over the bar and into the Peter de Banke terrace.

The game entered stoppage time, and despite it fitting the clich√© of being ‚Äėthere for the taking‚Äô, the game appeared to be heading for a draw. However, like the reverse fixture back in December, there was to be late drama. Grant looped a high cross in from the left wing and with both Ashton and Jason Lee challenging to clear the ball, it squirmed across to O‚ÄôConnor. His shot was fantastically saved by Finlay, but the ball fell right back into his path and he picked out the unmarked Wayne Carter to glance home the winning goal.

Diamonds pressure in the form of a late corner and a flurry of Connor Kennedy long throw-ins were to no avail, and after five minutes of added-on time the full-time whistle was blown to give Uxbridge their third away win of the season.

Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Uxbridge FC

 This represented another setback in Diamonds’ pursuit of promotion from the Southern Football League Division One Central, and although they arguably deserved a draw after creating some opportunities in the second half, the performance was still not up to the standards set before the Christmas period. Promotion rivals Kings Langley and Egham both lost also, but a victory for St Ives pushed the Diamonds down to 5th and into the final play-off place. Positives can be taken from the performance of home debutant Elliot Sandy and the increase in chances created compared to the previous three defeats though, and attentions now move onto next Saturday (26th March) and the fixture against Northwood at the Dog & Duck.

 Diamonds Man of the Match (chosen by Match Sponsor Henry Tunbridge): Elliot Sandy

 Attendance: 454

 Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Uxbridge FC

17. Matt Finlay

2. Connor Kennedy

3. Jason Lee

4. Jack Ashton

5. Liam Dolman (C)

6. Tom Manship

7. Andy Hall

8. Jon Stevenson

9. Elliot Sandy

10. James Jepson

11. Claudio Hoban

 

Substitutes:

12. Ollie Wilkinson

13. Brad Harris

14. Robbie Parsons

15. Tom Lorraine (for Stevenson 62)

16. Dan Quigley (for Jepson 82)

1. Paul McCarthy

2. Ben Peden

3. David Thomas

4. Dan Bailey

5. Mark Dennison

6. Kevin Warner

7. Lewis Cole

8. Jon-Jo Bates

9. Matt Woods

10. Wayne Carter (C)

11. Anthony O’Connor

 

Substitutes:

12. Harry Carter

14. Abobaker Eisa (for Bates 37)

15. Reece Grant (for Woods 71)

16. Luke Heneghan

17. Sam Gray

Goals: Sandy (69)

Goals: Peden (52), Carter (90+2)

Yellow Cards: Hall (44), Sandy (78)

Yellow Cards: Peden (27), Bates (32)

Referee: Edward Cook

Assistants: Jordan Bancroft, Kenwyn Hughes

 

 

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